Google Inc. today opened up its Google+ social network to retailers, brands and organizations.
The move, which takes a page from Facebook, enables a retailer such as Macy’s Inc. to build relationships with consumers on the fledgling social network. As of 4:45 p.m. Eastern time, a little more than six hours after the offering launched, Macy’s had gained more than 5,300 followers on the social network. Macy’s is No. 17 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.
“In life we connect with all kinds of people, places and things,” writes Vic Gundotra, Google’s senior vice president of engineering, in a blog post. “There’s friends and family, of course, but there’s also the sports teams we root for, the coffee shops we’re loyal to, and the TV shows we can’t stop watching (to name a few).”
Google’s move enables retailers to leverage the social network to interact with consumers, which has been an important element in many retailers’ marketing and brand-building campaigns on Facebook. That explains why 432 of the companies listed in Internet Retailer’s 2011 Top 500 Guide —86%—have a presence on Facebook.
When a consumer clicks the +1 button to follow a brand, he can then click to put the brand in one of his Circles on the social network. A Circle is an organization tool that enables consumers to classify their relationships by their own self-defined criteria, such as “Friends from college” or “Stores I shop at.” After a consumer adds a brand to a Circle, the retailer can interact with the consumer, as well as engage with the shopper via video chat.
While Facebook has long enabled consumers to interact with brands on the social network, Google aims to leverage its search engine to entice shoppers to follow brands on Google+. A new feature in its search, called Direct Connect, enables Google+ members to search for the Google+ pages of retailers, as well as bands and movies, then add them to Circles.
“Maybe you're watching a movie trailer, or you just heard that your favorite band is coming to town,” writes Gundotra. “In both cases you want to connect with them right now, and Direct Connect makes it easy—even automatic. Just go to Google and search for [+], followed by the page you're interested in (like +Angry Birds). We'll take you to their Google+ page, and if you want, we’ll add them to your circles.”
Corporations have to register with Google+ to prevent counterfeit corporate pages. That’s a stark difference from Facebook, where a search for a retailer like 1-800-Flowers brings up dozens of pages, including “1-800-Flowers ruined my order” and “1-800-Flowers Stinks,” in addition to the retailer’s official page.